STORY BY MELISSA FIELDS
The Return of the Custom Suit
Breaking down the buzz surrounding this old-is-new trend ABOVE: A FINAL FITTING AT MAIN STREET’S BECKETT & ROBB.
dmittedly, I’ve never worn a suit. As a woman and telecommuting writer for most of my career, I simply have never felt the need for one. Or, rather, I’ve been able to skirt around (pun intended) buying one with off-the-rack separates when job interviews, funerals and other suit-worthy occasions have arisen. That said, I’m also into clothes and fashion and love that rare and delicious feeling of wearing a garment that—because of the color, fit or even sometimes the mindset I was in when I bought it—makes me feel like my best self when I put it on. Ask any of the clothiers (never called salespeople) who staff downtown Salt Lake City’s thriving custom suit shops what the biggest benefit of investing the time and money in a custom suit is, and they’re sure to tell you that it’s that “I look great” feeling every time you put it on. “What we’re actually selling is confidence,” says Jason Yeats, co-founder of Main Street custom suit maker, Beckett & Robb. Really? Who couldn’t use a little extra confidence? I know I certainly could. So, with my curiosity piqued, I went about sussing out what the real differences are between a custom suit and one purchased off the rack. Express Your Style Fit is the obvious no-brainer advantage of going the custom suit route. Ask any man over six feet tall or under about 5 feet 4 inches, and they’ll tell you buying a suit off the rack is
fall 2018 / winter 2019
challenging, to say the least. But getting a just-right fit is really just the beginning. “We always start with a conversation,” says George Edward Spencer IV, head of shop at Tailor Cooperative, an almost speakeasy-feeling custom suit shop on downtown’s funky Pierpont Avenue. “Before we start looking at fabrics or discussing different styles, I want to find out the client’s intent, the application of the suit, their color preferences, how they want to feel in the suit and find out how they’d like to fit the suit into their existing wardrobe.” Though suits, as a rule, would seem very uniform in terms of style, custom suits actually offer plenty of elements that can become part of what Spencer calls, “your personal brand.” Take for example the Milanese buttonhole. Back when suit jackets still closed at the top, this left-lapel buttonhole— which now is sometimes used to hold the occasional flower or lapel, but is most often not used for anything at all—was a functioning buttonhole to close the jacket all the way up. (The word boutonniere is in fact the French word for buttonhole.) Some machine-made jackets do have Milanese buttonholes, but the difference between one sewn by a machine and one cut and sewn by tailor—as is the case on a custom suit—is obvious, particularly to those who wear suits. It is a tailoring flourish that lends the cherry-on-top prestige to a jacket. Other avenues for establishing—and maybe deepening— your personal brand with a custom suit include single versus double-breasted lapels; one, two or three closure buttons; button styles; sleeve buttons; a sack, structured or fitted downtown the magazine